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Sports drawing crowds to town

Sporting events are drawing hundreds of visitors to Brookhaventhis weekend, with cyclists racing over city streets and countyroads and golfers hitting the links at the country club.

The first of four events in the Fourth Annual Human PerformanceCompany Mississippi Gran Prix Bike Race kicks off tonight indowntown while the King’s Daughters Foundation Golf and TennisTournament got under way this morning at the Brookhaven CountryClub.

Race promoter Frank Moak said interest in the race is runninghigh.

“It’s looking really good,” Moak said. “Registrations are aheadof last year.”

Moak said 56 racers pre-registered last year and the eventeventually had198 cyclists. As of late Thursday, he said 64 racershad pre-registered.

“We’re expecting over 200 racers across the differentcategories,” Moak said.

Cliff Brumfield, executive vice president of theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, also commented onthe popularity of the bike race.

“We’re fielding a good number of calls and inquiries through ourWeb site …,” Brumfield said Thursday. “The event has grown andwill do well in bringing people to Brookhaven and LincolnCounty.”

The race, combined with the golf and tennis tournament, willmake for a fun weekend for fans of the events.

“They’ll have many opportunities to get out and enjoy the springweather,” Brumfield said.

The King’s Daughters Foundation Golf Tournament is in its fourthyear, said JoAnna Sproles, foundation director. Tennis matchesbegan this morning, with golf this afternoon.

“This is our first year to add tennis,” Sproles said. “This isexciting for us.”

Sproles said 21 teams had signed up for golf, while the tennistournament had 20 players.

Entry fees and revenue from sponsorships go to fund effortstoward renovation of various areas of the hospital or foundationprojects, Sproles said. She said the tournament is an opportunityfor business partners to network and for others to test theirskills in friendly competition.

“They all come together for a fun time in Brookhaven,” Sprolessaid.

The rest of the weekend will be for racing.

The Bank of Brookhaven Downtown Criterium is scheduled fortonight. Cycling teams will travel a course along Railroad Avenue,Monticello Street, South First Street, around the governmentcomplex and back to Railroad Avenue.

“The big thing for locals to see is Friday night at 6 o’clock,”Moak said.

The Copiah Bank/Cellular South Road Race is scheduled forSaturday at 9 a.m., beginning at Heuck’s Retreat Baptist Church,and the Bank of Brookhaven Time Trial will be at 5 p.m. on NolaRoad starting at Union Hall Baptist Church. Sunday features acircuit race at Copiah-Lincoln Community College at 7:30 a.m.

“The weather looks like it’s going to be good,” Moak said.

Moak said racers are coming to Brookhaven from across theSoutheast for the Gran Prix.

“It’s a pretty big regional event,” Moak said.

Moak said organizers chose a good date for the race. He saidthere are almost no competing events, with the closest one beingwest of San Antonio.

“For us to be successful, we have to bring these out-of-stateriders in,” Moak said.

Moak also touted the economic development benefits of the race,which conservatively have been estimated at $75,000 to $80,000. Hesaid several local hotels and motels are booked and racers andtheir families will be spending other money in Brookhaven thisweekend.

“They’ve got to eat, buy gas and that sort of thing,” Moaksaid.

With the race about to get under way, Moak is changing hats frompromoter to participant. He is leader of the Herring Gas racingteam.

“We hope to have a good showing,” Moak said. “This is ourhometown race.”